Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I Can Has Flowerz?" Or "Bon Appetit!"


The kittens haven't figured out how to jump on our mantels yet. I think it's just a matter of time. None of our other cats has ever tried it, but Toffee and Harris are much more adventurous. So my days of having bouquets are probably numbered, especially if the kittens turn out to be flower chompers. I figure the odds of that are about 20 to 1. When I realized how intrepid disaster-prone these kittens are, I switched to buying only non-toxic flowers. Before that, I'd occasionally buy hydrangeas, which aren't lethal, but can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Dried flowers can be toxic, too, since the toxins can be more concentrated, although some plants are less toxic when dried, so you have to do your research. I now keep my wonderful dried bouquet of blue-green hydrangeas high up on a chest that's impossible for a cat to reach (although with Toffee, I should never say "never"). Harris tried to take a bite out of the bouquet on his maiden flight to the top of the bookcases, but luckily I was there to witness his surprising leap and then rescue him from the flowers and vice versa.

Fortunately, my favorite three "florist" flowers for our mantel are safe for nibblers: roses, stock (above), and sunflowers, all of which I find at Trader Joe's from time to time. Some lovely, old-fashioned garden flowers — the kinds you find in farmers' market bouquets — are safe, too, including zinnias, snapdragons, marigolds, lilacs, and African (or Gerbera) daisies. But many of the most boring common flowers are toxic, including daisies, carnations, and chrysanthemums. These are no great loss to me, at least. (Black-eyed Susans are also toxic, unfortunately.)

As any responsible cat owner knows, bulb flowers — tulips, hyacinths, daffodils — are toxic, and the most dangerous are lilies, which can be deadly for cats, in even small doses. The cheerful voice on my vet's on-hold recording tells me this repeatedly every spring, and they've posted signs in their office, too. (I assume they've witnessed tragedies already and hope to prevent more.)

The ubiquitous Peruvian lily, or alstroemeria, is not a true lily but a member of the tulip family. It's not lethal, but it can cause allergic reactions in humans and gastrointestinal reactions in cat — and dermatitis in both species. It's the one flower that makes me sneezy and miserable so, naturally, it turns up in just about every mixed bouquet at Trader Joe's. There's inevitably some kind of lily in them, too, so I pass them by. There's a stand at our Copley Square farmer's market that sells almost nothing but lilies from spring to fall, and I can't help wondering how much trouble they've caused unsuspecting pet owners. There are buckets of day lilies, Stargazers, and other varieties sitting on the ground, easily accessible to a dog on a leash. Dogs may not go into kidney failure and die from lilies the way cats do, but lilies are still risky.

I love the little potted primroses and purple campanulas that appear in shops at this time of year. These aren't fatal but cause vomiting, so we won't be buying any. African violets are not toxic, but I had a cat long ago (Truffalo) who ate every single flower as soon as it appeared, which defeated the purpose, and I can imagine that happening again.

There are plenty of lists of toxic plants on the web but none of them are truly comprehensive. I had to Google like crazy to finally find out that stock is a safe flower. While lists of toxic plants are useful, I'm happiest when I find a flower definitively listed on a safe list, like this one, on MyCatSite.com. They provide a toxic list as well. The ASPCA provides very useful, separate lists of toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs, cats, and horses. Their cat list is here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fetch!

I don't have much time to post tonight because Toffee taught himself to fetch. I've been tossing various fluffy, sparkly balls to him all night; when he lost one, he was smart enough to find another one in the toy basket and bring it to me on the sofa. He raced like a maniac when I threw the ball. He looked adorable carrying it in his mouth, growling softly.

I've had cats in the past who would fetch, but in a much more desultory fashion. They'd bring me the toy once or twice, but then they'd get distracted or bored. If I asked them to bring me the toy, they'd look at me like I was out of my mind. That's what I'd expect from a cat. I've never seen one with Toffee's dog-like zeal. The only times Toffee screwed up his routine were when my husband tried to film us. Toffee proved he is a cat after all.

I occasionally tossed his toy onto the chair where Wendy sat watching us with interest. Twice, she generously batted it right to Toffee, who was waiting politely on the floor. The third time, she began playing with it herself, and Toffee tried to investigate. She smacked him on the head and that was that. He got himself another sparkle ball.

It's difficult to write about art (I have a looming deadline) and play fetch at the same time. Fetch is so much more interesting than 17th-century cabinetry. At one point, I had to give up and bake brownies, which are approximately ten times more interesting than 17th-century cabinetry. I think museums should sell (or hand out) brownies in their European decorative arts galleries; it could save lives.

In other news, Harris curled up in my lap twice today, napping on me as I worked at my desk. It's possibly the most endearing thing he's ever done and he's always been outrageously sweet. So I typed with one hand while he rested his head on the other one. I don't think it gets better than that... unless, perhaps, you have a cat who drops his toys into your waiting hand.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Double Vision

We've had Harris for nearly four months now, and Toffee for almost three. We're besotted, we're fascinated, we can't imagine life without them. I miss Snicky and Snalbert, who were old and fragile but still doing well at this time last year. Heck, I miss Bunnelina, who died in 2009. But missing them is much less painful with all these other warm, purring bodies lying around.

I've come to realize that the cats we've lost don't seem as "far away and gone forever" when we've let other cats take over their favorite chairs. While we will never love two cats the same way, there's always a surprising amount of room for a new cat in our affections, if we're brave and willing. When we open our door to a needy cat, we honor all the others we've loved — and we truly keep their memory alive.

Sometimes, I see a hint of a long-lost cat in one of the kittens. Often, from the back, Toffee looks just like a tiny, longhaired, long-winded tabby I had until the early '90s, named Truffalo.

How I love seeing Toffee from the back. I never thought I'd catch a glimpse of Truffalo again, but here he is:

Déjà vu.

I've been persuaded that the new cats come with the blessings of the ones who left us. I am so glad we are back to having four again, just like old times.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Today's Adorableness

Harris takes a break from viciously attacking the blue snake. Do Not Mess:


Toffee standing tall, doing his Daniel-Day-Lewis-as-Abraham-Lincoln impression:


Toffee demonstrates the evolutionary principle of camouflage coloring; he was born to hang out in a pile of scrunched-up craft paper:


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Top Cat

When the kittens finally figured out that they could jump to the top of our Mission-style bookcases — where they are eye-to-eye with us on the highest perch in the apartment — they were excited and went up there constantly. I often find Toffee napping there when I come home.

But their discovery left Possum in a quandary. As Top Cat, he has certain rights and privileges, but he also has to prove he's worthy of his title. The Top Cat must claim the best perches to show he's the boss. He can share them with the others if he's gracious (and Possum is, very). But he has to own them first.

Uneasy lies the cat that wears the crown.

So, after more than three years of ignoring this premium, high-altitude territory, Possum finally heaved his pudgy carcass from the sofa to the top of the bookcases. He made a point of going up there several nights in a row. Getting up there wasn't such a big deal, it turned out. Then he'd walk (or strut) the length of the shelf a few times, checking it out and making enough little comments to ensure that everyone saw and heard him. But then he had to figure out how to get down.

I sympathized with his situation. When we heave our own carcasses up some modestly challenging mountain trail in Acadia National Park, I'm usually okay going up. (I complain all the way, of course; complaining is the chief pleasure of hiking, isn't it? You also see some views...) But heading back down the trail is often a lot tougher. And you have to do it. You can't spend the rest of your life on some granite ledge. Or a bookcase.

The kittens (and our previous Top Cats, Snicky and then Snalbert) figured out that any of the sofa cushions are stable enough to provide a safe, soft landing, even if they seem precarious. But Possum didn't trust them. He paced back and forth, hesitating, experimentally sliding his paws down the sides of the bookcase doors hoping to soften his landing. I kept gesturing toward the sofa cushions, patting them and encouraging him to jump there. He ignored me and jumped straight to the floor, and stumped away on sore feet. I was horrified. A 16-pound cat jumping almost 5 feet to a wooden floor makes a hard, noisy landing; it's not far enough for him to twist around and do all that cool stuff you see in slow-motion films of cats falling long distances. And those cats are usually slim and fit. Possum is hardly aerodynamic.

The second night, I kept a closer eye on him. When he began fussing about getting down, I made big, sweeping gestures between him and the sofa cushions and put myself right in his path whenever it looked like he was going to jump to the floor again. We made a lot of eye contact and I spoke encouragingly. But he didn't trust me; he's never seen me jump off the bookcases, after all. So he'd settle down again and stay put. But he was nervous. This went on for about 20 minutes. He finally understood that I wasn't going to let him jump to the floor and made a messy but painless dive onto the sofa.

On the third night, he jumped to the floor again and I lectured him as he hobbled away. By now he'd seen the kittens taking off and landing via the sofa, so he didn't have to take my word for it. Unlike Wendy, Possum learns from watching other cats. (Feral Wendy won't completely trust us even after years of watching other cats enjoying the attention and treats they get from us.)

On the fourth night, I was sleeping soundly on the sofa, cozy underneath my throw and a boring paperback, when a series of exclamations awoke me. I looked up to see Possum talking to me from the bookcase, eager to get down. I was blocking his landing pad. I obediently withdrew and he leaped unathletically to my spot. Then he stalked off to check on his kittens.

Possum is definitely Top Cat.

Resting on his, er, laurels.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Little Harris Catches Da Bird

Toffee and Harris love Da Bird and ask to play with it every morning. These days, I have two feather toys on the pole, both very chewed up and on their last legs. I can still make it "fly" convincingly, so it flutters like a real bird, and the kittens have more to grab this way. The other morning, Harris had a field day with it:




Choosing "McBeastie" for his last name was appropriate.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do Try This at Home: Baskets

It's that time of year. Long snowy weekends spent hunkering down at home, staring at the walls, and at the piles of stuff that have nowhere to go. Some people get the urge to move, some to renovate, and some to clean and declutter. Some close their eyes to the mess and take a nap.

The rest of us go basket shopping. How lucky that Pottery Barn's basket sale is ongoing through February 27. (Another current promotion: sign up for emails and save $10 on an order of $99 or more.)

Here's a selection of their larger baskets. I wonder why anyone would use them to store rotten flowerpots, filthy wine bottles, and crappy firewood that looks spray-painted but, for all I know, this is exactly what you have piled around your house:



In a tiny apartment like ours, one can only have so much furniture but there's never enough storage. The first solution is to raise the bed a few inches, so big plastic storage tubs (on wheels) will fit underneath, along with extra cartons of cat litter. When every inch of that space is filled, the next solution is baskets. Start by recycling the baskets you own, putting them to better use. Then go shopping.

We had a basket for our hats, gloves, and scarves. It was too small; everything kept jumping out of it when we'd rummage through it looking for whatever we couldn't find — which was usually sitting on the floor. We replaced it with this big Workman's Utility Basket. below. It fits in the same spot and holds at least twice as much:

The lid hides the mess and keeps moths out, we hope.

We are using the old basket for cat toys. We'd been storing them in a leopard-print cat bed that Snicky used to use. Now it's back in business, with a pressure-sensitive warming pad that makes it extra cozy. We often find someone napping away in it, usually Wendy.

Wendy likes the new toy basket.

My desk, in our living room, is a marble bistro table: no drawers, no storage, nothing. For years I had a mess on the floor beside it — a shopping bag stuffed with papers and junk was perched on a wooden box crammed with files, with an antique candy tin and some books and more papers in between, plus whatever else that would fit. It was such an eyesore I never photographed it unless by accident. Here's a bad photo of it on a good day:


After a long session with a tape measure, I decided that the Jacquelyne Angled Lidded Basket was the solution:


I was worried it would be so big that we'd trip over it, or that the handles would stick out and jab us as we passed it. But it fits nicely — and doesn't it look much better than the messy pile it replaced?


It's sturdy enough for a (small) cat to sit on. It's also a tempting scratching post; I'm trying to discourage that. The best thing is that it swallows all the clutter I'm too lazy to deal with. It holds all of my files plus that shopping bag full of stuff that's been accumulating since the summer, and much more. (I'll go through it all someday. Maybe.)

It briefly stored Little Harris, too:


See that packed shopping bag on the left? That's my stack of listing sheets, souvenirs from house-hunting. When we finally buy a new place, I'm going to burn them all in the fireplace as a housewarming ritual. The stack will be so huge by then that I'll probably set the new place on fire. But at least I won't have a stupid pile of listing sheets I can't bear to throw out anymore.

 My craving for basketry ought to be sated since we seem to have run out of room. But another cool thing about baskets is that they can often fit neatly somewhere, even in small quarters. There's got to be a basket that would look great on top of my new basket...

The Jacquelyne Wood-Handled Basket, graceful and vaguely Japanese.

The large woven suitcase: handsome, but the latches aren't secure.

Oh, heck, I'll take one of each. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kittens at Play and Not

Toffee and Harris are making a ruckus as I write this, entertaining themselves with simple toys: an empty boot box, a red fabric ball, and a doubled Trader Joe's shopping bag (handles cut for safety). Toffee likes to put the ball in his mouth and growl at Harris, imitating Marlon Brando's citrusy death scene in The Godfather. (Toffee must have watched lots of movies before he arrived here. He's a PBS fan, too; he was devastated about Matthew on Sunday night and watched the finale twice with me.)

While cats love a stable daily routine, they get bored with the same toys, so I try to give them something different whenever I can. They also find new ways to entertain themselves. Last night, they had a great time attacking each other under a freshly washed bed sheet I'd spread out to finish drying. Harris is still crazy about dripping faucets so he gets a little water time every day. For years I kept pinecones in a blue-and-white bowl, never imagining that they were waiting patiently for Harris to come along and liberate them to fulfill their destiny as cat-hockey pucks. Have you ever stepped on a pinecone in the dark in bare feet?

The kittens like to play in the morning, nap in the afternoon, and play again after dinner. Toffee sleeps on the bed with us at night; Harris still loves to nurse on our ears at all hours but a little less often these days.

I'm a sucker for any kitten lying on its back. Show me one on Petfinder and adoption bells start ringing in my head. When I see Harris lying around like this, I could fill out his shelter application all over again:


I love to see the kittens sleeping together, too, with their little white feet entangled:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where to Eat in Peace

We're not gourmets, gourmands, or foodies. When we go out for a meal, the surroundings are as important to us as the food. We don't need a fancy environment, although we'll take what we can get. We love the classic, white-linen, French bistro–ness of Petit Robert. But we're more often in the mood for burritos from Anna's Taqueria than fancier food in a stylish room. (We've been eating at Anna's at least once a week for nearly 20 years and it still hits the spot.) What we value most when we go out to any restaurant is not having to yell at each other. We seek out quiet spots and, when we find one with good food, we keep going back.

I assume that most restaurants are designed with high ceilings, hard surfaces, and big sound systems because their owners believe that diners equate a "lively atmosphere," i.e., lots of noise, with having a good time. They didn't ask me; I'm the opposite. I equate a lively conversation around the table with having a good time. I have to assume that enough people find it a struggle to make conversation over dinner, even with their friends, that they find salvation in a noisy dining room instead of the torture I feel. I hate leaving a restaurant with an aching throat and ringing ears. (The only worse thing was when we'd come home reeking of cigarette smoke... remember that?)

We know we're odd, not only because noise bothers us so much but because neither of us drinks when we go out. Since 2002, I can't even have a splash of red wine in a pasta sauce because it makes me ill. My husband likes to have a glass of sherry at home but doesn't like wine with meals. Maybe drinking causes temporary hearing loss so noisy restaurants seem more pleasant. But drinking people often make restaurants louder and less pleasant for the rest of us. So we don't often eat in bars. When we do, we go for lunch.

Which brings me to my list of tricks for eating out in peace:

1. Eat at odd times. We eat a late lunch at Petit Robert in Kenmore Square around 4 in the afternoon on a weekend, when we often have the place almost to ourselves. Going to a popular brunch spot at dinnertime also works, especially if you're still in the mood for pancakes. If you prefer Italian, Panificio, on Charles Street, is another delicious, smaller restaurant that stays open through the afternoon and is usually pretty quiet. I haven't been across the street to Artu in this century, but it looks quiet, too.

2. Choose small restaurants — with care. This can backfire. The Grotto is tiny and subterranean, designed to be romantic and intimate, but it can be noisy. The tables are close together. On the other hand, we've had wonderful times at The Wine Cellar. It's also in a basement and has about 14 tables, but it's never been loud. While we can't partake of the wine list, we can stuff ourselves with fabulous cheese fondue and then stuff ourselves again with chocolate fondue. What's not to love?

3. Sit outside. It's counter-intuitive, but sitting outdoors, even on a busy street, will be quieter than the average dining room. As long as the motorcycle clubs aren't in town, and the ambulances and fire trucks aren't too busy, outdoor dining in Back Bay, along Newbury Street and even Boylston Street, is ideal for conversation. I especially like restaurants with sunken patios, like Piattini and La Voile. When your table is below sidewalk level, you can watch the world go by without feeling like you're on display. Restaurants with a hidden garden or courtyard, like The Hungry I and Casa Romero, are also good places to take people you want to talk to.

4. When quiet really matters, call ahead. Ask for a reservation at a secluded table and ask what to expect. When we took my mother-in-law out for her birthday last year, we knew that she cares about quiet even more then we do. She wanted a classic French restaurant, so we chose Pierrot Bistrot, on Cambridge Street in Beacon Hill. We've passed it on the way to Anna's hundreds of times, and it was always pretty empty on weeknights, at least — and it's pretty enough to be a film location. But, of course, the night we took my mother-in-law, they happened to be hosting some corporate dinner in their little dining room. There was a table set for 26 right next to us, they were very convivial, and we couldn't hear each other. Dinner was a disaster, my mother-in-law complained about the food as well as the noise; I can't say if the atmosphere influenced her tastebuds. That night, I learned not only to make a reservation when we eat with her, but to call ahead for dining room reconnaissance. (And since then, we've never passed Pierrot when more than a few tables were occupied.)
    On the other hand, The Capital Grille will reserve a quiet table for you if you request one, and it will be quiet. I know it's a chain, but I have to say that I've never been to a Boston restaurant with nicer service or more charming waitstaff. (Or better French onion soup. And yeah, it has wine in it, but it's so good that it's worth the inevitable late-night mild illness later on.)

5. Eat in bookstores and libraries. Bookstore cafés are hard to find; currently, I think we only have The Trident on Newbury Street. It's a new favorite of mine. They recently expanded to the second floor, where you'll find more books and another dining room, offering good people-watching. We've been there a few times with friends and family, and the conversation flowed quietly. The menu is also good: lots of interesting sandwiches and comfort food, extensive hot and cold beverages, vegetarian offerings, and a few more sophisticated specials. For lunch, there's also the elegant Courtyard Restaurant and the Maproom Café (for coffee and a snack) at the Boston Public Library.

6. Know when to just shut up and eat. Sometimes, good food is worth enduring noise. When someone turns on the jukebox at the original Regina's in the North End, we know enough to laugh, stop talking, and enjoy our pizza. (If they're playing Dean or Frank, I sing along since no one can hear me.) When we tried out the new Tasty Burger in Harvard Square, we were so busy snarfing our perfect cheeseburgers and a mountain of skinny onion rings that we didn't care if music was blasting. Sometimes it IS all about the food.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Today's Adorableness

Toffee is proving to be as enthusiastic about 18th-century decorative arts as Possum. He took a break from climbing the curtains and chewing on his brother to help me with my reading today.


I believe he is most interested in breaking 18th-century decorative arts, but a youngster's appreciation has to start somewhere.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How to Procrastinate

I have a writing project due at the end of the month. Naturally, I'm not making nearly as much progress as I should. But I have my reasons, and I spend hours thinking them up. So far, those hours have not brought me around to such activities as housecleaning or going to the gym. But I'm keeping busy, as you'll see. Note that I'm not including any links down below, so you can do your own procrastinating by looking things up if you're inclined. If you're anything like me, you grasp gratefully at such straws when you aren't writing long, boring blog posts in your head.

1. Online shopping. You can still find lots of bargains out there if you spend a ridiculous amount of time looking. And, of course, there's always eBay. What do you think of this dress for the warm weather we'll be having, four or five months from now?

It's J. Crew, from last year's collaboration with Creatures of the Wind, the award-winning designer duo from Chicago. Vintage Liberty print skirt; chambray bodice with zipper and print belt. It fits like a glove, which surprised me because dresses never fit me. Looking at it on the hanger, I didn't think I'd be able to zip it, but I'm still a size 4, at least by J. Crew's standard. The skirt is lined with a twirly cotton slip, and all the bodice seams are finished in Liberty print binding, a level of detail I never see in my price range. I was intrigued by this dress when I saw it last spring, but it was online-only, too expensive, and then it sold out. I almost fell off my chair when it suddenly reappeared in my size during a recent, extra-30%-off sale items promotion, at a third of its original price. Bonus: it needs ironing badly, another excellent time-waster.

2.  Pinterest. I have nearly 9,500 pins now, and almost 400 followers — and I'm not nearly as obsessed as some of the pinners I follow. More than 1,200 of my pins are antique and vintage fashion. Pinners mine online museum collections around the world and post glorious dresses and accessories from decades and centuries past (along with a billion other intriguing things from recipes to jewels). It's a constantly changing visual buffet and my favorite way to waste time online. 

Compare the J. Crew dress with this number from 1842, in the Metropolitan Museum's collection, and either weep for the loss of so much beauty or rejoice that we no longer wear hoops and stays:


3.  Old New Yorkers. Suddenly the November, December, and January issues gathering dust on the coffee table are yelling my name. And they're full of fascinating articles about professional pickpockets and errand runners. I won't have anything left to read in the hot tub at the inn next June if this keeps up.

4.  Worrying. Why is Possum still so tubby when the other three are verging on skinny? Why does Toffee occasionally cough like he has a hairball... or a blockage? Why is Wendy's inner canthus (corner of her eye) red? Why is Harris's philtrum (area between nose and upper lip) turning brownish-pink? (And when did I learn Latin?) Harris also has a slightly runny nose. I'm cleaning his nose and Wendy's eye. Her eye doesn't look scary, just not quite right. I described all these issues to our vet and she expressed no interest in seeing anyone, says it's probably a Herpes outbreak, very common. Here's a photo of Harris. What do you think?


5. Vistaprint, where I design calling cards for Possum. I didn't know until he told me that he has given a name to our apartment, "The Knickers" (don't ask me). He doesn't think anyone in his "social set" (?) will need to know his street address now that he lives in a named residence. Good luck, Possum, and you also need an email address and a cell phone.


6. Physical therapy. My therapist has been deep-tissue massaging my calves, which feels like being sliced with dull knives. I kick and yell as I lie on the table, yet she persists in this twice-weekly torture. I consider that extreme suffering taking a toll on me, rendering me incapable of serious reading or thinking about English decorative arts. (Unless they are on Pinterest.) It's my most plausible excuse, isn't it?

7. Universal Hub. I've been following local crime, but only after the fact. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, when I was actually trying to work — immersing myself in Horace Walpole and 17th-century teapots respectively — I missed two major incidents and didn't even hear the sirens. On Wednesday, I missed a massive manhunt in the blocks around our building that involved about 30 cruisers and officers chasing a guy who apparently rammed a patrol car a few times during a routine stop for a broken tail light. He ran off and broke into two nearby buildings as he tried to escape.The UHub Twitter feed only went so far so I still don't know if they caught the guy and why he was so uninterested in chatting with a policeman. They carted off his car, at least. Then, on Thursday night, outside Trader Joe's, just a few minutes from here, the same fellow who'd rung up my groceries that afternoon (assuring me I'd love the frozen Savory Profiteroles) stabbed a customer, allegedly in self-defense. I missed all that commotion, too. If stuff like this happens every time I settle down to work, I'd better not work. 

8. Sleep. As doctors are always telling you, you need at least 12 hours a night. I'm heading to bed right now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quiet Valentine's Day


It's a silly holiday and we have never celebrated it, although we did get engaged on Valentine's Day, 16 years ago. It was quite a shock, that ring appearing out of nowhere, after so-so cheeseburgers in a crowded, non-descript bar in Jamaica Plain. I was so stunned that I allegedly never said "Yes." So the dude had to propose all over again the next day. I came home to find him waiting in his tuxedo, and he got down on one knee after seating me on the sofa... romantic! So we'll be going out for dinner tomorrow night, when the little neighborhood restaurant we like has returned to its normal menu and we can have what we like instead of the pricey, prix-fixe V.D. special. The day after Valentine's Day is our proper holiday.

We've never told Possum about our strange engagement and I hope he never asks. He'd probably be mortified, not because it wasn't some elegant, extravagant, or highly creative occasion, but because there wasn't any fish.

The six of us spent tonight quietly, everyone working, napping, or both. I just started another script-writing project for the museum. Last night I discovered that excerpts from my scripts are occasionally posted on the museum's Facebook page. I was reading a somewhat interesting little paragraph there last night — it seemed like news to me at first. And then I realized I'd written it. Made me laugh. Everything I read — and write — seems to go in one eye and out the other. At this rate, when I'm really old, I should be able to entertain myself for years with just a couple of chapters of Jane Austen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Follow the Dancing Dot

I've always thought that laser pointers were the most mean-spirited cat toys, since the poor creatures will run themselves to exhaustion chasing the red dot but never have the satisfaction of catching it.

I've been outvoted. Toffee, Harris, and even Wendy love chasing the laser dot a few times a day. Harris and Toffee will dash from room to room, run in zig-zag patterns and circles, leap up walls and doors, and happily wear themselves out in pursuit of the fiendish red light.

Possum, however, agrees with me. He has no interest in laser dots except during art history lectures.

Here he is, perfectly nonchalant as the laser dot rests enticingly between his paws. Immediately after I took this, he had a genial smackdown with Harris and Toffee, who were still desperately hoping that their Impossible Dream was lurking near him on the sofa.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Don't Try This at Home: British Loo Style

I spotted this hot pink bathroom on a British real estate site, where I went browsing for a change of pace from Boston's tedious offerings. I guess that, if you're going to build a collection of chamber pots, the bathroom is the best place to display them. (But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.) The toilet seat appears to be Lucite with hot pink flowers or something inside.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Don't Try This at Home

On Pinterest the other day, I got interested in a pin from one of the interior designers I follow. It led me to this spread from Rum, the Scandinavian style and design magazine.

I've never seen a more beautiful space with worse furniture. This apartment has it all — high ceilings, ornate plasterwork, marble mantels, old herringbone and inlaid parquet, huge windows, original mirrors, a fancy chandelier. It's a dream come true for an old Victorianaphile like me. But it looks like someone furnished it from an SUV packed with treasures during Allston Christmas. I can only hope it was staged as a fantasy of someone's first, post-college apartment. Take that butterfly chair. I took one to college as a freshman, eventually replacing its bright lime green cover with screaming yellow. It was annoying to sit in and it left dents in wood floors. It made it into my first apartment but I couldn't wait to get it out of there.


My first apartment also had this desk lamp, in white, and two folding chairs, in orange. The chairs lasted for the first few months, anyway. By Christmas, I'd replaced them with four walnut bentwood café chairs ($49, Pier One, in 1982) with cane backs and seats. They are classics, hard to find these days. I still love them and I'm sitting in one right now.


My first apartment had a beautiful walnut mantel. I did not put my butterfly chair near it. I stuck it in the bedroom. It looks like someone cut off many of the flowers from the stems in that vase, below; I suppose the arrangement looked too abundant for this minimal aesthetic:


Oh, wouldn't it be nice to sprawl luxuriously on one of these matching "love seats," to read and doze, to relax into plush cushions chilly leather padding while pondering that ceiling? On second thought, I think these are best suited for yoga. 


Imagine lingering over a sumptuous feast some kale at this too-high table, in these miserable chairs. While I didn't own such chairs, one of my best friends did. She got a deal on them from the museum where we both worked — they were extras from its café. We played a lot of Scrabble in those chairs, protected by thick back and seat cushions so we never touched metal. Those chairs are long gone.


I bet we all remember the days when we stacked most of our magazines and books on the floor, instead of just the overflow from our shelves. Before I bought and painted my first cheap bookcases, I did this, too. (I skipped the cinderblock-and-plank stage.) But whoever owns these magazines forgot to organize them so their spines face out. That gives you a better chance of finding the issue you want without having to dig through piles. That is, assuming you'd ever want to read your magazines, and assuming you have a spot where you can comfortably do so. Big assumptions in this apartment.

If I lived here, I'd always be out, waiting for a vacant armchair at Starbucks. My cats would be fighting over the butterfly chair, I suppose, since the bed would likely be a slab of wood covered in a Mylar blanket, or something similar.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snowy Saturday in Back Bay

Here are some photos I took yesterday. We walked around the neighborhood for about an hour and that was plenty since the wind was still blowing hard and snow had poured swiftly into my knee-high boots as I walked down our unshoveled front steps. 

Pedestrians had taken over the streets during the driving ban and there was a cheerful mood as everyone were all slip-sliding, taking photos, and dodging the occasional car or plow. We ran into a few people we knew, and then we bought the last of the skim milk and bread (Iggy's pecan rolls, not complaining) at Deluca's after we discovered that Trader Joe's was closed. 

We were happy to come home and get warm and dry. As I was downloading my photos, I noticed that about 15 of them were missing. My SD card must be corrupted; I spent much of the afternoon and evening running various "free-trial" data recovery programs to see what they could retrieve. I managed to recover several images eventually. If this happens again, I must remember to buy SanDisk Rescue Pro because it that worked best.

Today was our real "snow day" as we didn't leave the house and I barely left the sofa except to cook, eat, and check email. (That novel I'd said was boring, Time and Again, has gotten interesting.)

Snowy tree and rooftop icicles; I was happy to rescue this photo from my corrupted disk.

Marlborough Street: pretty, white, and mostly impassable.

But there's a [slippery] sidewalk under there somewhere.

Shoveling went on all day and well into the night.

We overheard someone say that the people roaming the snowy streets reminded them of zombies.

Walking down the middle of Newbury Street with the occasional biker. Joe's and Stephanie's were open and looked busy.

Plowing Dartmouth Street at Copley Square.

Commonwealth Avenue, looking timeless without cars

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blizzard of '13

It snowed all night and was still snowing hard about an hour ago. The snow is much finer now but still accumulating, coming down steadily. Here's the view from our window this morning. The splatters at the bottom are ice on the window; the snow on the walkways is untouched:


I took this one around midnight:


And again this morning around 10 am:


I don't know if Toffee remembers his babyhood outside on the streets of Dorchester, but he should be grateful that some splendid person rescued him last November. I hate to think of cats, or any furry creature, trying to survive outside in this:


As always, Possum has the right idea. Later on, we'll join him on the sofa to read if he'll make room for us. But we're also planning to go out to experience the snow firsthand. More photos to come.